Holidays that fall mid-week tend to see better viewership than those on long weekends, says BARC India’s recent THiNK newsletter. The television audience measurement agency mapped the patterns on weekends and weekdays, region-wise trends, genre-wise trends, and month-wise trends while studying the viewership trends based on seasonality and climate changes.
While the ATS on weekdays (Monday- Friday) remains more or less the same with minor deviations, it shows a sharp rise during weekends. Sunday achieves the highest ATS.
Having already established that TV viewership is higher on weekends in comparison to a weekday, the only spikes on weekdays too can be attributed to a festival or a public holiday. Looking closely at the trends, it can be said that holidays that fall mid-week typically witness better TV viewership than those that fall on a long weekend, i.e. Monday or a Friday. Students and the working population when they get an extra day off in the middle of their hectic week would probably prefer to stay at home and relax, while on long weekends they may want to make plans to step out and enjoy the extended holiday.
There may be a great opportunity here for broadcasters to hook viewers on long weekends with a cohesive programming strategy spread across three days, which would impel the viewers to tune into television to watch the channel/ programme on all days of the long weekend.
The study has mapped all the viewership in the 15+ TG, since the 2-4 TG was added only in 2017 and inclusion of the kids TG would have hampered the comparisons of 2016 and 2017.
As per the study, it becomes evident that the TV viewing pattern remains consistent quarter on quarter, each year. Q2 (April-June) of the calendar year is traditionally the least performing quarter, as the viewership is seen to dip during this period. April-June are the peak summer months, and the onset of the holiday season owing to summer vacations in schools and colleges.
Another possible explanation could be the increase in power cuts and load shedding in summer, which could cause a dip in viewership. As the holiday season ends, viewership starts picking up in Q3 (July-September). The quarter witnessed a growth of 5% in overall TV viewership from 2016 to 2017. This is the highest viewership growth across the four quarters, and may be an ideal time to hook the viewers returning to television after a short hiatus, by debuting new content and programmes.
Q4 (October-December) is the strongest quarter of the year with respect to TV viewership. However, this quarter witnessed the least growth of 1% in 2017 over the same quarter in 2016. A lot of special, festive programming occurs in this quarter in lieu of Diwali, Christmas, New Year, and hence viewership may be maxed out in this season.
How genres behave
GEC is a relatively stable genre, with no major fluctuations across the year. However, while looking at the total TV viewership trend earlier, we had observed weekly growth in viewership on weekends. This growth seems to be fuelled by the movie genre, which is also in keeping with the programming strategy of airing blockbuster movies and premieres/ world TV premieres on weekends. A note-worthy rise in viewership in the genre is also observed between April-May 2017, which can be attributed specifically to the airing of IPL on Set Max, which is in the movie genre.
Since the kids TG has not been considered in this analysis, one would expect the viewership for kids’ channels to be lower, but the numbers are quite comparable. While some of these viewers may include the older teens, it is also indicative of co-viewership of the older groups along with the kids, as a large percentage (>90%) of TV households in India are single TV homes. Kids channels could potentially be a good platform for brands to capture the attention of the parents and leverage the pester power of the kids at the same time, especially during the summer vacation months. While most genres see similar seasonal fluctuation patterns, the kids’ genre witnesses a substantial increase in viewership during this period as kids are at home and would be spending more time watching television.
While we know that there is a general increase in the viewership of the kids’ genre in the summer months, an interesting story emerges when we break it up by zones. The various zones across India have different vacation schedules, and these local trends clearly emerge in the viewership graph.
The schools in South typically break for vacation at the end of March and re-open early in June. In the West, schools go on vacation from mid-April till mid-June. In North India on the other hand, schools break for summer vacation much later in mid-May and remain closed till end of June. The general vacation period in the East zone is typically May-June.
The fact that the variance in viewership spikes lines up perfectly with the respective regions’ vacation period shows us the high sensitivity of kids’ viewership to vacations. Regional broadcasters may therefore look at introducing limited period kids programming in these months to take advantage of the seasonal viewership increase.
The music genre has a similar viewership share as that of kids’ genre among the 15+ audience. The genre seems to be growing with an upward linear trend. The youth and infotainment genres are relatively smaller in comparison to the rest. While the youth genre seems to be stable and consistent, the infotainment genre exhibits a slightly downward trend.
The news genre is a highly event driven and dynamic genre. While it is a small genre, we see some massive spikes across the timeline. For example, the sudden demise of Jayalalitha led to the highest spike in news viewership, across India, over the last two years. Though the event was more central to South India, it was covered by most news channels with equal intensity. Demonetisation was another critical event with a big impact. Politically significant events such as elections also lead to a noticeable increase in viewership, as is evident across the genre timeline.
Maximum fluctuations can be seen in the sports genre based on the schedule of major sporting events. During the telecast of big ticket properties such as the T20 World Cup and the ICC Champions Trophy, the average viewership of the sports genre has surpassed the highest average viewership for GEC genre on a given day during the two-year period.
While interest in other sports has been on the rise among Indian viewers with the introduction of new sporting leagues and formats, cricket still dominates the sports viewership for the average Indian viewer. This is evident from the viewership spikes during all cricket tournaments, especially when Team India is playing.
The study also measures the viewership trends over a single day. It divides the complete day in five parts. The late morning (0900-1200) and early afternoon (1200-1500) time bands can be thought of as a single time band, due to high similarity in their viewership patterns.
The early prime time band (1800-2100 hours) is the only time band that reflects seasonality in TV viewing, while all other time bands appear immune to it. The late prime time band (2100-2400 hours) also exhibits seasonality. There is a visible drop in the viewership for these bands during Q2 (April-June) in both years, however the increase in the 1800-2100 time band in the subsequent quarter is not as high as that of the previous time band. In fact, it is interesting to note that the early and late prime time bands exhibit opposite growth trends, specifically in Q1 (January-March) and Q4 (October-December) each year. Since these are also the strongest quarters with respect to TV viewership, there may be a latent opportunity here to grow viewership by airing compelling content in the late prime time (2100-2400 hours) time band.
Viewership across day parts
Audiences in South India consume the maximum television throughout the year. AP/ Telangana and TN/ Pondicherry have consistently been in the top three markets across all state markets in the country, along with Maharashtra/ Goa. High TV penetration in these states is also an important factor that may have driven high viewership in the said markets. TN/ Pondicherry market saw an increase in TV viewership in the latter half of 2016 on the back of Jayalalitha’s health crisis and subsequent political unrest. This increase bumped up the all-India viewership as well, indicating that viewership in this market is more likely to fluctuate with severity of events. The North and West zones were observed to be at par with respect to TV viewership in 2016.
As it was observed that seasonality does exist in TV viewership, one may wonder if external factors such as the weather or temperature impact TV viewership. Looking at the daily viewership of the top six megacities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore), mapped with the average daily temperature, it can be said that temperature and viewership have an inverse relationship.
In winters/ cold weather, people stay indoors and watch TV, but in summers/ warm climate people would prefer stepping out and engaging in alternative activities for entertainment. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, the frequency of power cuts and load shedding is higher in the summer, which also leads to a dip in TV viewership. The cyclic pattern in television viewing could partly be explained by this environmental factor. As we had observed, TV viewing is high in the fourth and first quarters, but in the second quarter (summer) the viewership dips and stays low. This has been the pulse of TV watching in India for the last two years and perhaps previously as well.
This could have some implication for the broadcasters, agencies and advertisers as well. For example, broadcasters can focus new show releases in the autumn/ fall season. Agencies can purchase network advertising packages months in advance, anticipating the pulse of viewership basis the seasonality. Advertisers could benefit by creating a unique seasonality segmentation for their brands. Brands can also invest more in TV advertising for their campaigns that are to be scheduled in the months with typically high TV viewership.